I need your advice - Please!

I am 35-years-old. I really do believe age is a number, and, truthfully, I am more fit and healthy now that I was ten years ago. I would love to attend medical school, but fear that I might not be a good fit. Would you kindly point me in the right direction?

My education:
BA in liberal arts.
I’m afraid my school studies were subpar (B average). Not awful, but not as good as I’d like. I was caught up in college life, if you will, and was not a disciplined student.

I know that I am able to score a lot of A’s in hard subjects, but I’m not sure if my past track record weighs me down. I’ve heard about post-bacc programs. Is this a good start? Is there a book about this sort of thing?
I am a student at The Ohio State University. I am just beginning studies in Microbiology. Is this the right track? Should I have a different approach?
Thank you!!!

Hi Gary:
Age is not an obstacle unless you’ve convinced yourself it is. I was 37 entering med school and will be 45 starting out as an attending anesthesiologist in July. Many others here on the site were older when they started. Many med schools appreciate the fact that maturity and life experience make older non-trads good candidates. That’s not to say that you won’t have challenges along the way. Many of us also were “less than stellar” students in previous lives. It is your present and future performance that will count. Also, you may have family and other obligations that single young students don’t have, making study time a more precious commodity. As far as microbiology goes, you need to pursue what excites you and interests you the most, regardless of what you think med schools are looking for. Although some hesitancy and self-doubt are inherent in any major life decision, make an absolute and unambiguous decision about what you want to do, commit to it fully, put in a good effort in your chosen field, and get decent grades. As a pre-med advisor told me years ago when I was thinking about med school, wishy-washiness (is that even a word?) is fatal. Resolute determination will help you succeed whatever course of action you decide to pursue. Your future is up to you, no one else. Pursue what makes you happy; leave the rest behind.

I was almost in an indentical situation to you (started a bit earlier, when I was 33, but I’m 35 now). Anyway my undergraduate grades stunk, my postbacc grades were good (4.0), and I did ok on the MCAT (33). I was accepted into two osteopathic schools and have interviewed at one allopathic school (waiting for a decision from them).
I wouldn’t recommend a formal postbacc program. Also, if possible, I’d pick a smaller school than Ohio State that doesn’t have a formal premed evaluation process. This way you’re free to build bridges with individual professors and have them write you letters of recommendation.
I’d also make sure that 25% of the schools I applied to were DO schools.
Good luck - it’s certainly possible.

Thank you for the advice.
I’m not doubting you about what you say about establishing relationships, but I really thought Ohio State’s name and program recognition would carry a lot of weight. No?

Gary -
Are you working on another bachelor’s degree, just taking medical school pre-reqs or taking other science classes to boost your science GPA? Are you at the Main campus of Ohio State or a branch?
I attended OSU in Mansfield last year, took ochem at Capital last summer, and took classes at main campus fall quarter. I applied for 2005 acceptance and have been accepted to two schools and waitlisted at one so far.
I really don’t think Ohio State’s name or reputation is going to improve your application status unless you are taking advanced coursework in something that they have a really strong rep in. If you are just taking pre-reqs, you may actually be at a disadvantage at Main campus, because all of your pre-reqs are such huge classes and you will have limited opportunities to get to know professors well enough for recommendations. I was in good shape, as my LOR’s all came from profs I had at Mansfield (where the classes are small and you have a lot of one on one contact with your profs) and at Capital (ditto).
Can you share some more details about your background and your plans? We may all be able to give you better advice that way.
Feel free to e-mail me or pm me if you have more questions about OSU.

RE: "Are you working on another bachelor’s degree, just taking medical school pre-reqs or taking other science classes to boost your science GPA? Are you at the Main campus of Ohio State or a branch?"
I figured that I’d have to complete most, if not all, the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in order to meet the medical school requirements. Yes, a GPA boost would be nice. My education is comprised of business (MBA) and liberal arts (BA). So, I really need to take the math and science, any way. And, I’m at the main campus in Columbus.
Good tip in the class size and rec letters.
One of the reasons, believe it or not, that I’m going to OSU is that they do have some science and math classes that are available in the evenings. I can do much of the work without having to quit my current job.
It doesn’t sound like I’d have to do everything to meet the requirements for a bachelor’s degree, is that right? What would be the bare minimum in order to be eligible for med school?

Hey Gary,
Just keep on your path and get your good grades. Believe me, age isn’t going to matter as long as you produce a competitive application. I turned 50 three weeks after I graduated from medical school and I got into the six schools that I applied to.
You may also want to invest a bit of money in a professional premedical counselor such as our own Judy Colwell. Her contact info and ad can be found on this website. Since you are non-traditional, it can pay off in spades to have someone who thoroughly knows the admissions process and can assist you in producing the most competitive application possible.
Good luck and welcome to the group!

Gary -
You definitely DON’T need another degree in order to be eligible for medical school. My BS was in Spanish Education and I have a MEd in Classroom Technology. I had virtually none of the med school pre-reqs.
You need (at OSU):
Math through 151 (which is Calc I - I took 148, 150 & 151)
Chem 121, 122, 123 (General Chemistry w/labs)
Physics 111, 112, 113 (General Physics, non-calc based w/labs)
Biology 113 & 114
Chem 251, 252, 253, 254, 255 (The first three are the Organic Chemistry lectures, the last two are the organic chemistry labs - You can take labs and lectures together)
This is the absolute minimum you need. OSU will give you a pre-med list that also includes Micro 509, Biochem 511, Anatomy & Physiology 199.??, and Mol Gen 500. You don’t HAVE to take these unless you are applying to a school that requires one of them (and many schools are starting to require biochem). I took Micro and Biochem just to fill out a full load. I wish I had taken A&P. I think the physiology would have been very helpful for the MCAT.
If you will be taking enough hours at a time to qualify for financial aid and need it, you may be better off pretending to be seeking another undergrad degree. You can get more financial aid that way. Otherwise, you are only eligible for 12 consecutive months of FA as a Continuing Ed student.
I highly recommend that you make an appointment with Berniece McDaniels in the college of Arts and Sciences. She is one of the pre-med advisors. She is awesome and can be helpful. You can make an appointment with her even if she is not your assigned advisor.
I am afraid though, that you will find that a lot of your pre-reqs will NOT be offered in the evenings. Physics 113 only had one lecture section in the fall at 8:30 am. The ochem lectures are also typically during the day.
Let us know if you have more questions!!

Most glad to see ya posted here on OPM! As I told in our e-mail exchanges - there is a great deal of value in a variety of input. And, as the folks above have wisely pointed out (I think I may have this too): there is more than one way to skin this cat!
Age is only an issue if you allow it to be an issue. If you come across in your application or in your interviews as apologetic or regretful (?word?) about your age, then it can count heavily against you. What you need is a perspective change. Think of all the wonderful life & professional skills that you bring to the negotiation table that will not only facilitate your own success in medical school; but also will be of great value to the younger students around you…they can & will learn by your example & you actively teaching them.
Another thought - this is straight out of my presentation on Networking - think of applying to medical school as negotiating a business deal that involves large-scale allocation of resources. What is the fundamental goal? To maximize potential for success while minimizing exposure to risk. As an applicant, you strive to demonstrate that you have what it takes to succeed thereby minimizing the program’s exposure to risk - flunking out. In the process of demonstrating your relatively low risk status, you have lots of life & professional tools that you have developed that substantiate your claims. The trick is to present them succinctly in your application…I would imagine you have manage many similar processes in the business under a different context.
Regarding big school vs small school: without a doubt, you can make it into med school from THE OSU…countless others have done so before you. And, if the school is geographically the only convenient locale where you can cont to work & take night courses, then I would not sweat it. But, in my humble opinion, smaller classes are to your advantage for the reasons cited above. But, also bear in mind the night classes are typically smaller than the day ones. And, getting to know professors is something you can do no matter how large the crowd.
Best of luck to you!

OK - That’s a lot of great information! Thank you!
One last thing (in a long line of upcoming “last things”, I’m sure), what is a competive MCAT for non-trads? And, what GPA will the medical schools take into consideration? The science and math at OSU? A combination? How much weight will my MBA carry? Do med schools place a factor on work/life experience? I am just trying to get a handle on what all figures into the admissions process. MCAT/GPA ratios?

I agree with Natlie and think that you should contact a premedical counsler. I contacted Judy Colwell and developed a plan that not only included what classes to take but what I needed to do to supplement my application. She had some very good ideas. Getting a personalized plan from an expert gave me the confidence to proceed and focus on my studying.

I would echo that suggestion - actually meant to echo it in my previous long-winded approach. Judy Colwell is a long-time friend, trustworthy & ardent supporter of OldPreMeds. You can ask anyone who has employed her services & they will resoundingly endorse her. It’ll be well worth the expenditure of resources.
Not to drop a cheap plug in…but I am going to do so anyway…our upcoming conference will also be more than worth the expenditure of resources. Plus, if you elect (which we hope that you & everyone else will) to brong along the family, Washington DC makes for superb vacation spot where most all of the cool & educational stuff is FREE. And, we’ve secured a tremendous deal on our hotel room rate ($119/night for rooms normally in excess of $225/night).

I have e-mailed Judy. When I hear from her, I promise to take her advice to heart.

I am curious as to the reasons that you do not recommend a formal post-bacc program. I am applying to several post-bacc programs, 2 formal and 2 informal.

Hi Dave. I was curious to see you write about not apologizing for age when applying to med school and to point out potential success vs. risk. Very good points. I’ve “gone back” to college for the 3rd time now since graduating from high school, 16 years ago. I’m wondering if Med Schools are going to view me as person who can’t finish what she starts. If I graduate on time, I’ll have my B.S. in Microbiology in Spring of 2007, but it’s taken me quite a few years to get to this point. Of course, I won’t apologize for it, life just happens, but they will see in my application the breaks in my educational career. I wonder if you have any tips on how to address something like that during the Med School interviews.
I certainly know the specific personal reasons (i.e. divorce, etc), but I’m assuming it’s not appropriate to go into such personal detail during the interviews (or make excuses). Maybe my assumptions are wrong. Maybe the MD’s holding the interviews do except med students to talk a about the obsticles they’ve had to face on their journey to Med School. Eh, I don’t know.

Honestly, programs must filter the applicant pile to a reason quantity that can be processed in earnest. To do so, each program applies its own paradigm. In some programs, irregularities (grades, MCAT scores, breaks in education…) will be sufficient to downgrade your app. This is unavoidable & unpredictable - period. So, to maximize your chances, you must make certain that you concisely state the things that need to be said.
For example - do not make excuses for poor past performance. Take ownership & then elaborate on how these setbacks helped you grow personally & professionally. Take a negative & use it to highlight/strengthen a positive. Same thing applies to age - emphasize the positives & de-emphasize the negatives.
In essence, you cannot change the past & you cannot change the filtering or selection paradigms. But, you can work your butt off to present the strongest application you can muster. Then, after much research on programs(a massively valueable & under-recognized benefit of OPM), send your app to as many as you think will invest time into actually reading your app.
This is how you maximize you ability to get accepted. If it does not work the first time, learn from your mistake, make your app better & apply again. It is not about who is the smartest kid in the app pool. It is about stick-to-it-iveness.